Full 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible Review
What's New for 2013
The VW Beetle convertible is all-new for 2013.
In an era when everyone from bickering politicians to self-important rent-a-cops seems just a little too tense, the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible is a rolling invitation for everyone to just lighten up.
And, really, why not when you have a compact drop top like this that's practically begging you to come out and play? The latest Beetle's more muscular styling may say "horsepower" more than "flower power," but it still embodies the cheeky playfulness people expect from a Beetle. The classy four-seat interior is almost as memorable, but it's also well-made and nicely quiet thanks to the multilayered and power-operated soft top that can be lowered in less than 10 seconds. Not only is this new drop-top Beetle an awful a lot of fun, it's also one of the most desirable convertibles on the market as well.
Longer, wider and lower than the Beetle convertible it's replacing, this all-new Beetle convertible is a better car all the way around. The styling is undeniably more masculine with its aggressive stance, lower roof line and standard rear spoiler. Additional structural reinforcements and an independent rear suspension deliver a smooth ride and very respectable handling, especially in the sporty Turbo model. Inside, it gets a more natural driving position without the old car's table-like dash top.
Other practical improvements include a soft top that folds lower atop the rear deck for improved visibility and a larger trunk with split-folding rear seatbacks that makes it possible to squeeze in longer items and still close the trunk lid. Of course, "larger" is a relative term since the trunk remains quite tiny and further suffers from a small opening. The backseat isn't all that roomy either, but there is more legroom than you'll find in other small convertibles like the Mini Cooper.
If you'd like to check out alternatives, the Fiat 500C and sportier Mini Cooper convertible should be on your list even though they're smaller. For something larger, and with a decidedly different vibe, the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang convertibles are also worth a look. There's also Volkswagen's Eos; it's a lot more expensive, but it does offer the extra security of a retractable hardtop design.
Even with all these choices, however, the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible hits a sweet spot that its competitors can't quite match. And that may help explain why this smile-inducing ragtop always seems ready for a good time.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible is a four-passenger soft-top convertible that's offered in three main trim levels: base 2.5L, diesel-powered TDI and performance-oriented Turbo.
Standard equipment on the 2.5L includes 17-inch alloy wheels, heated windshield-washer nozzles, heated mirrors, a fully powered soft top, a rear spoiler, keyless entry, air-conditioning, full power accessories, cruise control, premium vinyl "leatherette" upholstery, height-adjustable and heated front seats, split-folding rear seats, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, an iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack.
The TDI model starts with all the base model's standard features, then adds the turbodiesel engine, different alloy wheels, keyless ignition/entry, a multifunction steering wheel, a dash-top auxiliary gauge pod and an upgraded touchscreen audio system with HD and satellite radios. Springing for the Turbo gets you all the above plus the more powerful turbocharged gasoline engine, 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a sport-tuned suspension, front sport seats, alloy pedals and distinctive interior trim.
Most options are grouped into packages, starting with the base model's Technology package that includes many of the upgrades that come standard on the TDI. The Sound package (Turbo only) bundles an upgraded trip computer and a Fender premium audio system. The Sound and Navigation package (2.5L/TDI only) adds the premium audio system plus a touchscreen navigation system to the mix. On the base 2.5L model it also includes 18-inch alloy wheels.
Early buyers can also opt for one of three limited-edition models that pay homage to the original Beetle's glory years: the 1950s, '60s and '70s.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible is offered with a choice of three different powertrains, all of which send power to the front wheels.
The entry-level 2.5L gets a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that puts out 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard. In Edmunds testing, a Beetle 2.5L coupe went from zero to 60 mph in 9 seconds -- about average for an automatic compact. Expect the convertible to be a bit slower. This powertrain's EPA's fuel economy estimates are 21 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. This is actually the worst fuel economy of them all, and not that impressive for a car this size.
The TDI is powered by a 2.0-liter turbodiesel that produces 140 hp and 236 lb-ft. Transmission choices here include the standard six-speed manual transmission and an optional six-speed automated manual known as DSG. EPA fuel economy estimates come in at 28/41/32.
The Turbo takes its name from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that cranks out a healthy 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. It gets the same transmission choices as the TDI. Expect a 0-60 time north of the Turbo coupe's 6.6 seconds. More impressive than that performance boost are fuel economy numbers that surpass those of the base model at 21/30/24 with the manual and 21/29/24 with the DSG automatic. Premium fuel is recommended, though.
Standard safety features on the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control and combination head/thorax front side airbags. Also standard are roll bars behind the rear seats that pop up in a fraction of a second in a crash.
Interior Design and Special Features
Like the outside of the car, the interior of the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible has a less cutesy look to it. Gone are the previous generation's built-in flower vase and the broad expanse of dash between the steering wheel and the windshield. It's more sensible and normal now, but there's still plenty of style and personality.
As with most VW models, the workmanship and materials here are top-notch. Large gauges, buttons and rotary knobs are easy to see and intuitive to use, which is more than we can say for some of the Beetle Convertible's competitors.
Up front the seats are comfortable, with generous amounts of legroom. Rear seat passengers will find a modest amount of legroom and a bolt-upright seatback, but no mainstream convertible save for the Chrysler 200 offers anything substantially better. Another noteworthy improvement is that the soft top now folds lower atop the rear deck. This improves rear visibility considerably, but the view back is still hardly praiseworthy. An old-school tonneau cover must also be affixed to the folded roof, should you want a cleaner look and less wind noise.
The car's growth spurt also means the trunk has grown to 7.1 cubic feet, and that space can be expanded by flipping down one or both halves of the 50/50-split rear seatbacks. Still, this is a rather negligible amount of space.
From behind the steering wheel, the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible is an enjoyable car to drive. Just how enjoyable largely depends on which of the three available engines is under the hood.
The entry-level 2.5-liter five-cylinder is powerful enough, but it sounds unrefined and its fuel economy is subpar. The Turbo's turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder delivers far more satisfying acceleration and goes farther on a gallon of gas to boot. The four-cylinder turbodiesel powering the TDI is supremely fuel-efficient, while also being considerably livelier than you might expect.
When it comes to the transmissions behind those engines, the easy-shifting six-speed manual rates as one of the best of its type. The optional DSG auto-manual gearbox is a good compromise for those who want the sportiness of a manual and the convenience of an automatic, despite the slow throttle response when left in the normal drive mode.
The VW Beetle Convertible also handles fairly well, especially with the sport-tuned suspension that underpins the Turbo model. While the Turbo's handling isn't in the same league as high-performance models like the Mini Cooper S and Fiat 500C Abarth, it's still good fun on a twisty road. Ride quality is quite good on the 2.5L and TDI, and even the Turbo manages to be refined enough in this department to make a pleasant road trip companion.